By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK — The city will — once again — include a full-time city manager on its payroll when Joseph Merucci begins work this week.
Mayor Patricia Diaz Krause said that last week city council approved the appointment of Merucci, a veteran municipal administrator who recently served as city manager in Clawson.
The position of full-time, professional administrator has been vacant more often than filled in recent years. Most recently, Greg Capote served for seven months before council declined in January to renew his contract; Capote had taken over the position vacated in 2011 by Steve Duchane.
Council members and elected officials have held different opinions on the need for the position, which includes an annual $80,000-plus salary, especially with a looming budget deficit and continued layoffs. Among Merucci’s top priorities, Diaz Krause said, will be to steer the city towards resolving its anticipated $550,000 shortfall.
“He understood that the main priority is to work on the city’s finances,”Diaz Krause said. “And continue to put things in place that will help us maintain a financially sound house.”
Diaz Krause and council members have often debated the position yet agreed last week to offer the position to Merucci, one of three candidates they interviewed. Diaz Krause said that the priority must be understood along with execution and an understanding of the position.
“Communication is the key,” Diaz Krause said. “He needs to keep us informed and understand he reports to us. He’s been a city manager long enough to know the drill and process.”
While Lincoln Park continues its struggle toward financial recovery, Diaz Krause said that having a full-time administrator familiar with municipal law is a necessary investment.
“In this day and age a manager just makes sense, it’s necessary,” Diaz Krause said. “You cannot have an elected official running a city. The goal of an appointed position is to get the politics out of it; someone not worrying about campaigning or getting elected.”